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10 Best Video Game Console Startup Screens

The startup screen has become something of a lost art in modern video game consoles. With so much time and effort going into the hardware and performance of the systems, adding in a cool startup intro doesn’t seem to be a necessity anymore. However, veteran gamers surely miss the days of iconic startup screens, as they serve as wonderful tokens of history and nostalgia. To remind everyone how amazing they can be, here are the top 10 video game console startups. 

10) Dreamcast (1998)

The SEGA Dreamcast is a fan favorite because of its rarity (it was discontinued just three years after release) and that it was well ahead of its time. It represented the shift towards the modern design of consoles still used today and was the first to support online play. The startup screen, though simple and a little derivative of Pixar, is also beloved, more-so for the calming ambiance than the visual spectacle. The intro made players feel as if they were about to enter a dream, and for the lucky few who were introduced to the sixth generation of consoles through the very first entry, they were.

9) XBOX 360 (2005)

The seventh generation of consoles marked the beginning of the end for the startup screen. The Wii only had a black screen with a warning message, and while the PS3’s startup was decent, it was lackluster compared to its predecessors. Microsoft hadn’t quite abandoned hope in their graphics department yet and used a short but very cool intro with the original model of the XBOX 360. Sleek and contemporary, the now trademark XBOX whisper sound at the end put a great touch to this startup. 

8) Steam Big Picture (2012)

For the vast majority of PC gamers, Steam is the digital service they use to purchase and play games. While Steam has been around since 2003, Big Picture Mode was introduced in 2012 as  an interface for HD televisions, effectively turning the service into a home console. Contrary to their peers, Steam did not neglect the startup screen and created an effective and memorable intro for the new age. This startup proves that there are new ideas to be had and that effort does not go overlooked by fans, and can hopefully inspire the upcoming ninth generation of consoles to return to their roots.

7) PlayStation (1994)

The PS1 marked Sony’s first outing in the home console arena, and as far as startup screens go they came in with a bang. Well, really they came in with some chimes, accompanied by a brooding set of synths that belonged in a Kubrick movie. The visual intro wasn’t much to behold, but the captivating orchestra is part of what led many to fall in love with the PlayStation brand. If you were bold enough to play past your bedtime, you better make sure the TV was on mute before turning the system on, because those synths would wake the whole house up.

6) Nintendo Entertainment System (1983)

For veteran gamers who have been at it since the 8-bit and arcade days, the NES may have been the first home console they owned. The luxury of being able to play Super Mario Bros. in your pajamas from the comfort of your living room is what made millions of people fall in love with video games. I’m too young to have ever even played an NES myself, but every time I see the intro, I think of how amazing it must have been to see it on your TV for the first time as a kid in the early ‘80’s. The colorful flashing graphics and retro music create the ultimate feeling of nostalgia. 

5) SEGA Megadrive/Genesis (1988)

This might be a controversial entry to the list in general, let alone being top 5, as the SEGA Genesis technically didn’t have a startup screen, but went straight into the game. However, the Genesis has become synonymous with the original Sonic the Hedgehog game (included with every console after the game’s release) and its sequels, to the point where gamers inherently consider the intro to the Sonic games to be the console’s startup screen. Frankly, the Genesis might have been able to claim the top spot on this list if it were the official startup, as the “SAAAAAAAY-GAAA” sound is the best in video game history. Go ahead and try not to say it when you rewatch the video.

4) XBOX (2001)

You’ll begin to notice a theme here with the top four entries, beginning with Microsoft’s debut home console, the XBOX. While the system was a huge success that quickly made Microsoft a leader in the industry, their debut startup screen was perhaps even more impressive. The animation of the electric green matter accented with the black, Matrix-Esque background arguably makes it the most detailed console intro movie to this day. Even though it preceded XBOX’s now-iconic whisper sound, the strange sci-fi synths at the end still hold their own weight.

3) Game Boy Advance (2001)

Sometimes, less truly is more, and the startup screen for the GBA is one of the best examples. Only four things were needed for perfection: A company logo, a colorful dynamic wordmark, and an unidentified sound of wonder followed by the most heavenly “DING” imaginable. Not much more needs to be said about this timeless intro.  

2) PlayStation 2 (2000)

The PS2’s legendary startup screen was like nothing ever seen before and is arguably the most engrossing video intro ever. When you turned on a PS2, it was as if you were being transported to another dimension through the psychedelic cubes. The futuristic sound at the beginning blew people’s minds when they first heard it and can’t be explained with words to this day. It may actually come as a surprise to not see the PS2 in the top spot, but there was one fatal flaw that was surely unintended by designers. While the startup screen was breathtaking at first, it became an anxiety-filled dread once your PS2 had some years under its belt. There was no worse feeling than diving into those cubes and never seeing the “PlayStation 2” wordmark pop up, then having to restart the system knowing that you were chipping away at the system’s lifespan. Also, if there was no disc inserted or one couldn’t be read, you were taken to a scary place:

1) Nintendo GameCube (2001)

There was never any doubt that the number one spot on this list was going to come down between the PS2 and GameCube, as the sixth generation of consoles were top class in terms of startup screens. While they could easily be 1A and 1B, the GameCube ultimately takes the cake in these rankings. Simple but extremely unique, the sounds and the corresponding logo animations are some of the best ever designed, and longtime NGC connoisseurs instinctively hum along to the jingle every time. There were even secret sounds that could be heard by holding the Z button on one controller; or if you had enough siblings or friends, all four controllers. What really makes the GameCube’s intro reign supreme is its accessibility: while it was impactful and worth watching every time, it was still very short and got you into the game as quickly as possible. And if you needed to access the options or saved data, you simply held onto the A button and the logo did a slick spin into a chill little interface. 

The PS2 startup might be more sensually impressive, but the GameCube delivers everything you could ask for in an intro. 

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